Two of Nigeria’s major hydroelectric power plants that draw water from the River Niger face the threat of reduced water volume as the plan by Niger Republic to dam the upstream section of the river continues to gather momentum.
The Kainji and Jebba power stations, which have a combined installed capacity of 1,330 megawatts, draw water from the River Niger to generate electricity, with Kainji having the capacity to generate 760MW, while Jebba’s capacity is 570MW.
The World Bank said the average flows of the river had declined sharply over the years with very low flows during the low water season.
According to industry experts, the construction of the Kandadji Dam by Niger Republic poses significant risk to the power plants. The most important component of the Kandadji project is the construction of a hydroelectric power plant, which is expected to generate 130MWof electricity for the Nigeriens.
Last year, the World Bank, through its lending arm, the International Development Association, increased its funding for the project from $203m to $258m. Other financiers include the Saudi Fund for Development, Islamic Development Bank, and the OPEC Fund for International Development. The dam is expected to be completed in 2017.
The Executive Director, Greenado International Limited and a former Renewable Energy Manager, Bank of Industry, Mr. Lawal Gada, said in a telephone interview with our correspondent that once a dam was constructed on the upstream of a river, it would affect the flow of water to the downstream negatively.
Gada said, “All the tributaries (contributory streams to the river) from the end of Niger Republic will be cut off and that is going to affect the volume of water that will be available to power the Kainji and Jebba dams.
“There is a need for cordial relationship between Nigeria and Niger Republic to conduct adequate environmental impact assessment and come up with ways to mitigate the negative effects before the project is embarked on; or even if it has commenced, there is a need for review.”
The Head of Energy Research at Ecobank Capital, Mr. Dolapo Oni, who noted that the project had been in the works since 2003, said Nigeria had been trying to placate Niger Republic with the supply of power to the country.
“However, in recent times, power supply from Nigeria has dropped. Furthermore, Niger Republic is growing at a faster pace. Thus it needs power. The World Bank has granted it additional $55m so that the project will be built,” he said.
While noting that the base load of Nigeria’s power supply still remained the Kainji and Jebba plants, Oni said by damming the River Niger at Kandadji, Nigeria could see water level fall at the plants, thereby reducing the quantum of power generated.
He added, “I believe the decision to go ahead with the project could also be reflective of the state of diplomatic ties between both countries. Ethiopia’s 6,000MW Grand Renaissance Dam is also being held up by Egypt and Sudan, who will be affected if the Nile River is dammed. There are plans to strengthen power exports in the region to ensure that the project is developed to favour all parties.
“Thus, we could follow a similar approach. If the dam will reduce power supply at our plants, then it must be large enough to compensate for the shortfall in power generation by supplying the excess capacity to Nigeria.”
The President, Council for Renewable Energy, Nigeria, Chief Anita Okuribido, stressed the need for the Federal Government to identify all the negative implications of the project for the country and notify the Nigerien government appropriately.
“Both countries should draw up a mutually beneficial programme,” she added.
The World Bank, in its Environmental and Social Impact Assessment study and Environmental and Social Management Plan of the Kandadji project, said it would reduce the hydroelectric power generated in Kainji by 12.8 per cent and in Jebba by 15.7 per cent, among other implications.
“The negative residual impact of the simulations is mainly the decline in electricity production for downstream works (Kainji and Jebba). Since the presence of the Kandadji Dam reinforces low flow in Nigeria, the conditions of habitat for aquatic life upstream of the Kainji reservoir are expected to be favoured,” the bank said.